Fierce push for connectivity

250 hotzones or up to 5,000 hotspots will enjoy broadband facility two years from now

MIRI: The State government has targeted up to 250 hotzones covering cities and major towns in Sarawak in the next two years in an aggressive push for broadband connectivity and services.

Deputy Chief Minister and Sains chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the 150 to 250 hotzones would be equivalent to 2,500 to 5,000 hotspots based on the current definition of the Minister of Energy, Water and Communications.

Dr Chan said the project which started in Miri on Feb 2006, was based on the latest Super WiFi infrastructure which covers at least a one to two kilometre radius from the base station, an increase coverage compared to the 100 to 500 metre range of the common indoor WiFi systems.

The project is into its second phase of development with focus on coverage of more schools and libraries in urban and rural areas - a major concern on the State agenda.

When schools and libraries are covered by broadband access, students and teachers would be linked to the knowledge highway, be exposed to educational materials and references previously not available to them, he said.

Standing to benefit the most would be those living in remote and under-served areas.

Sarawak is also actively promoting e-government transactions and services that include job advertisement, payments, municipal services and job or scholarship applications.

The State government has appealed to the Federal government to assist in facing the challenges of connecting rural and remote villages without telecommunication and Internet service.

We are aware that going full eG (electronic government) will put the rural areas in Sarawak at a disadvantage, Dr Chan said.

He called for the department to quickly address the digital divide in the State, so that the digital revolution happening in Sarawak would not worsen or widen the present socio-economic disparity among the people.

Dr Chan was referring to the States initiative in spearheading the drive through the broadband service provided by Sacofa-Danawa, which has been extended from Miri to Kuching, Sibu and the upcoming Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy in central Sarawak.

He revealed that over 30,000 have signed up including 17,000 early birds in Miri.

Dr Chan urged the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communication to provide the necessary support, resources and finances to facilitate Sarawaks journey towards being a full broadband-connected state by Year 2009.

He praised Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communication Lee Kim Shin for spearheading this drive by heading his team, known as Miri Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG), comprising major industry players and the ICT fraternity.

Lee said the number of subscribers is expected to increase exponentially within the next two months when this broadband service is extended to densely populated residential areas.

Initial work on antenna-mounting structures and piling has already been completed and the contractors are busy with the second stage of construction work, Lee said.

He thanked Danawa-Sacofa under the dynamic leadership of chairman Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi for the project implementation milestone, which led to Miri being declared a WiFi city on Jan 10 this year.

Housing areas in Pujut, Desa Senadin, Permyjaya and elsewhere are expected to enjoy broadband connectivity by end of March this year.

In support of the national broadband plan and attainment of k-society, Miri BSG would continue to voluntarily provide feedback and proposals to make Miri a world class WiFi city, and is studying various models and k-cities in developed countries.